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Marilyn Monroe: ahead of the curve

Marilyn Monroe: ahead of the curve

There’s a girl at your desk, they told me at reception. Of course. I’d forgotten. The work experience girl.

“Girl” did not do justice to the creature seated in my chair, working on my computer. It came back to me that they told me she was a stunner, and I was duly stunned.

“Hello,” she said in an Eastern European accent. She looked and sounded like a James Bond heroine. “We’ve been expecting you, Meeester Robbins,” she added. (OK, I made that last bit up.)

“My name is Kristi,” she said, proferring a hand.

“Christy?” I asked, “as in O’Connor?”

“K, R, I, S, T, I,” she said, with a skyward flick of her eyes.

Now, if Chanel did work experience girls, they’d come up with something like Kristi. She was tall, blonde and statuesque. She was wearing an Oscar de la Renta jumper dress that showed off her figure.

I spent a few minutes showing her how the various IT systems in our newspaper office worked and then it was time to go to our regular afternoon news conference.

Kristi stood up. And kept standing up. The process of getting her vertical seemed to take a long time. By the time she was upright, I came up to about her armpit.

She seemed to be built on a different scale to me: broader, taller, more athletic. She might easily have put me under her arm and carried me bodily in to the conference.

As we worked together that evening, I learned that Kristi came from Estonia and was studying journalism and PR. She did a little modelling work too. (Several times, I had to ask her to move back and give me a little room. Could she have been coming on to me, I have wondered every five minutes since…)

I also learned that, earlier that day, when Kristi was out and about town, a group of French rugby supporters in town for the big match, had parted to make way for her, and then applauded as she passed. Oh those French!

Kristi did not seem exactly riveted by the magic of newspaper design and layout, and she left after a while. Whereupon I was set upon by my male colleagues, who made it clear that, should Kristi return, they expected to be introduced.

The women in the office were decidedly unimpressed. They thought her beauty a little obvious. Kristi’s looks, it transpired, appealed to men, but not to women. It’s the old SJP syndrome: women think she’s gorgeous; men think she looks like a horse.

Which brings me to the whole size 00 debate. Survey after survey shows that men like curvy women. The great screen sirens – Monroe, Loren, Taylor – have all be women with hips and breasts, and they knew how to use them.

These actress were, well, women. They looked and acted like real, grown-up women. Men tend not to get so worked up about the stars who look and act like little girls.

Audrey Hepburn is a prime example. Women think she is the acme of style and sophistication, but men think she is slightly annoying. I mean, life is way to short for all that coquettishness.

The mags these days are full of confessional pieces by celebrities about how they spent six weeks and $20,000 getting down to a size 00. This process involves a lot of exercise and looking at photographs of food, because you sure as hell are not allowed touch the real thing.

In times of poverty and famine, the elite are fat; in times of decadence and excess, the reverse is true. The rich and the beautiful have a perverse determination to go against the grain.

The statistics show that real women are getting bigger. Their hip, breast and height measurements are all up and the High Street has reacted accordingly. But in the weird, through-the-looking-glass world of fashion, models are getting more emaciated.

Fat, it seems, really is a feminist issue, or at least a female one. Maybe it’s time for women to embrace their curves they way men do.